Some still seeking government loan deferment

Yangchen C Rinzin 

Some of the youth involved in the learn and earn programme (LEP) programme and who have returned from Japan said it was time they moved on beyond LEP issue when they met the Prime Minister yesterday.

Youth and their parents met the Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering to discuss the way forward yesterday.

Tshering Yangki is now a teacher in Bumthang said that at present the talk is only about the loan repayment without individuals doing anything.

“I returned from Japan a year ago and life was difficult. But I realised I must take up any job that comes my way,” she said. “We all know the kind of hardship we endured, which was so much difficult compared to our present situation, so we must try harder. We can do better.”

Tshering Yangki said that instead of waiting for help, it was time the youth moved on and do not wait for the opportunity to do something.

“The general impression of the public is that we’re making noise because we can’t pay the loan,” she said. She said that whenever the youth who returned from Japan apply for jobs the general comment is that the employers are scared of them because the youth might drag them to police or social media.

Youth also said that labour minister Ugyen Dorji told them that the government would come up with a programme, especially in agriculture and construction sector, if they were interested.

“We’ve to pay loan installments of Nu 14,000 a month and we were asked if we would take jobs that would pay Nu 25,000 monthly salary. There is a plan, let us show our interest and take up the job and not keep complaining of the loan issue.”

Another youth said that it is a perception that has been created in the minds of the youth that there are no jobs and they cannot solve their loan issue. “We know if we work hard like we did in Japan, it is possible. I worked hard and now I’m doing a small business so, please make a proposal, the government would definitely help.”

Some of them Kuensel talked to said that although they have been trying only few managed to find jobs. Others said it is difficult to make ends meet because half of their salary goes into paying the loan. “We know we have to move on and we want to but it is easier said than done,” one said.

The meeting with the prime minister was requested by the parents and youth after media reported labour minister’s comment on the reports on LEP programme during the annual gups’ conference in October.

Following the report, they wrote to the prime minister and labour minister seeking clarification on the statement and demanding lyonpo to apologise alleging the statement would influence the on-going case.

Lyonchhen clarified that the minister was quoted out of context and he did not mean to say the LEP case was false.

“I was also at the conference and I’m the witness to what conversation took place on that day,” Lyonchhen said. “All he meant was that whatever information is given in the media may not be all true, however, he didn’t mean that the youth are not facing any problems.”

Lyonchhen said that they have been in constant touch with the doctor who is treating Sonam Tamang, the government is doing everything possible to help. The government has arranged a Bhutanese doctor who can speak lhotsampa fluently to help Sonam Tamang’s mother to communicate with the doctor treating her in Japan, and also helped to defer the loan repayment.

However, he said Sonam Tamang’s mother had to return home for personal domestic work.

“Police also promptly worked on the LEP case and there are many things that we’ve been doing or providing support,” Lyonchhen said. “That’s why lyonpo meant that these things are being done so when the media reports the government is not doing anything, it is not true.”

Lyonchhen said if the youth were at the conference they would have understood the context and such allegations would not have surfaced. “I was worried how would the readers perceive the information when the story was published. The reporter also clarified on Facebook but you all were still unsatisfied.”

Another allegation was that the statement would influence the case, Lyonchhen said the labour minister’s statement would not influence the case in any way.

“I was worried too when the allegation came up. I enquired with my lawyer friends, they guaranteed it will not affect the case at all.”

On allegations that the government was supporting labour minister, Bhutan Employment Overseas, and the director general of employment, Lyonchhen said that the government has no hands in their cases and that they would wait for the case to complete.

“RCSC is dealing with the director general as per the BCSR. I feel hesitant to even talk about LEP issue now because I am worried how it would be perceived.”

Some requested if the government could defer the loan again with low interest rate and a few requested for a waiver. Lyonchhen said waiving the loan was impossible. He said at the most, the government would talk with the BDBL on the low interest and to defer again.

Meanwhile, Lyonchhen urged the youth and their parents to work together with the government to come up with the solution as a way forward to solve the issue.

“If you have any plans or proposal to start a business, let us know how we can be of help. I cannot solve the issue immediately but let’s sit together and solve.”

Prime minister also discouraged groupism.